5/7/2024 Newsletter: Catching Up with ACE 

A Brief History:

The Association of Clovis Educators was founded in 2021 by Clovis teachers who love Clovis Unified and want it to be the best it can be. Most of the teachers who founded ACE had been teaching in Clovis Unified for several decades, but our group quickly grew to include newer educators, nurses, counselors, school psychologists, and many more veteran teachers.

We began ACE because we felt that the district had drifted away from its founding principles, like, “People not Programs,” and “A Fair Break for Every Kid.” We became increasingly aware that educators no longer possessed a voice in district decision making and, because of that, many nonsensical decisions were being made. It also became increasingly obvious that educators had no means of addressing their concerns, as the Faculty Senate was not only powerless to influence meaningful change but had also evolved into an arm of district administration, and no longer spoke on behalf of the educators they were supposed to represent.

We initially tried to work through the structures established by the district to effect change and improvement for educators and students alike. We joined committees, involved ourselves in QIT teams, and of course tried to work with the Faculty Senate, but regardless of our efforts, it became evident that real change and new representation was needed. 

We realized that the biggest reason we had no voice was because Clovis educators have no recognized union. Many of our Clovis colleagues had had a union for decades, including catering, transportation, maintenance, grounds, and custodial employees. We reached out to the California Teachers Association and asked for their support in learning all we could about forming a union for educators in Clovis.

Slowly the conversation among colleagues grew and the support for a union for Clovis educators grew large enough that we could move forward in becoming the representative body of all Clovis educators, and thus ACE was born.

Since that time, ACE has been conducting a “vote” in an effort to get ACE elected as the official representative body for Clovis educators.  This voting process is conducted via a signature petition. For ACE to become the official – and more importantly, the legal – representative body for Clovis educators, ACE must attain 50%+1 signatures of all certificated non-managerial employees.  Every day, ACE grows closer to meeting this goal.  

Until we meet this goal, ACE has focused its efforts on using the strength we already have to make needed improvements for Clovis educators and Clovis students.

We have advocated for pay increases, for COVID leave, for increased IA support, for access to information about the decisions being made about our compensation, and for meaningful conversations with us as educators about policy changes that impact our work.

School Psychologists and MHSPs are the first employee group to formally unionize so far and have been able to achieve having such changes put in writing in a legally binding contract. Everything that the rest of us achieve in improved pay and working conditions can be changed at any point by admin.

We ask you to vote for ACE so that together we can accomplish the same binding protections for all Clovis educators soon.

FAQ for 2024

We have an ongoing list of Frequently Asked Questions that we started hearing from the beginning of ACE. Please take a look at that list on our website. This year, we are updating that list with the questions we’ve heard a lot over the past year:

Should I avoid talking about unionizing if I’m not yet permanent?

No! But it’s okay either way. During your first two years of working as a certificated educator you don’t have the same job protections as permanent staff, but you still have the same rights as other public employees. You can’t be fired or retaliated against for joining and supporting a union. Many new employees choose to keep a low profile and get their feet under them before being public and vocal about their support for unionizing. We respect that! You can also sign the ACE petition confidentially and nobody but the ACE Organizing Committee and the Public Employee Relations Board will know. It will be submitted only to the Public Employment Relations Board and never released publicly. Still, you can always be vocal and public about your support for the union! It’s your protected right!

I don’t agree with the union’s politics. Doesn’t that mean I shouldn’t support it?

Not at all! ACE is affiliated with CTA, a large union with over 300,000 members. Educators across the state elect a 800+ member State Council that makes the decisions about the union’s political positions along with all the other work they do. There is a broad spectrum of political views and priorities among CTA membership, but at the end they vote on what to support. Regardless of your views, there are others who share them – as long as you support students and education! If you get involved, your voice can be heard, too. We can also get engaged locally, where the consensus views of educators in the Central Valley and in Clovis might differ from our statewide peers. Every voice matters and you’re encouraged to get involved. You can also get involved and then decide to opt out of your dues going to political candidates’ campaigns.

What has ACE achieved? What are they working towards?

When ACE first started, educators were scared about standing up or being vocal. Now, “union” is no longer a bad word! We’ve changed the culture and given educators more of a platform to address issues and the courage to speak up. We advocated publicly to address our huge wage gap compared to neighboring districts and pushed for the significant increases we’ve seen over the past years. We constantly share information that previously most Clovis educators haven’t been aware of or understood, like district budgets, Ed Code, and solutions found in the union contracts of neighboring districts. We ended the Non-Disclosure Agreement that kept us in the dark about the decisions being made about our salaries. And most importantly, we have a union contract for School Psychologists and MHSPs! We know that Clovis has the resources to address class size, protect prep and planning time, make stipends more transparent and equitable, and support teachers in addressing student behavior disruptions. Regardless of the issue, we believe in collaboration while also holding our administration accountable and making sure educators are part of the decision.

How can I get involved?

Step 1: Get informed. Talk to an ACE member or Organizer about our vision for Clovis to be the best district it can be. Step 2: Sign the ACE Union Support Petition to vote for ACE to be the union for all Clovis educators. Step 3: Talk to your colleagues and encourage them to get informed, show their support, etc. Step 4: Join ACE/CTA by signing up as a member. You access the benefits like legal protection and discounts while also making your voice stronger in your worksite.  

If I get involved, do I have to pay dues?

No! ACE/CTA members pay dues, but signing the petition for ACE does not make you a member of CTA. When ACE reaches majority and can finally bargain a union contract with the district, all educators will get to decide individually if they want to participate as a CTA member.  Those who choose not to join will not pay dues, even if they supported the decision to unionize. 

I know and trust the people who are leading ACE now, but once we unionize, how will we know that the next generation of leadership will share our values and priorities?

Those of us who started ACE knew full well that once we achieved a fully recognized union, all CUSD educators would have a chance to elect the representatives and leadership that reflect us as a whole, and that those people elected might not be us. Because of that, we established bylaws and standing rules that are designed to make sure that ACE represents the voice of Clovis educators. We’ve held our first elections and the current leaders are committed to two or three year terms. The more people get involved and participate as members of ACE, the better the next elections reflect the voice of Clovis Educators. We know that we best protect the positive values of our organization by keeping everyone involved rather than giving the power to one or two individuals.

How can we guarantee that by unionizing we can actually make a difference?

Nobody can guarantee that we will solve our problems by unionizing. The point of a union is to empower us to create the solution to our problems ourselves because we know our work and know the problems. It does guarantee that we will have access to the legal authority, protections, and support needed to make a difference. What we do with it is up to us. We can point to the many solutions achieved in unions around us and throughout the state, such as fair and transparent stipends, protected prep time, and compensation for extra duties.